Why is advancing the communications profession so important?

How can communications and public relations (PR) professionals be defined as must-haves in an organization, be recognized with increased status and higher pay, approach job searches with confidence, and gain a seat at the decision-making table?

The answer: By advancing the profession.

Advancing the profession will result in all communications and PR pros being seen as strategic, valuable and impactful players in the business landscape. It’s my North Star in my work as a Communications Career Specialist, as I aim to help both communications and PR professionals elevate both their careers and the profession simultaneously.

Why do we need need to advance the profession?

There’s no barrier to entry in the field, meaning anyone – no matter their experience, education or training – can call themselves a communications or PR professional. In contrast, a lawyer, accountant, physician or management expert would be expected to follow a predictable path of training and education, and would be recognized with a string of letters after their name that signifies their accomplishments and attests to their professional acumen and experience.

No such formal training and education path exists for communications and PR pros. The risk associated with this is that someone with no formal training or education, and little experience in creating measurable strategic objectives, executing multi-touch point campaigns, and driving business results through communications, could brand themselves as a communications or PR pro. Unskilled or unethical “communicators” who aren’t able to deliver on promised campaign results, act outside of the best interests of clients and stakeholders, and who can’t advise on business issues from a strategic communications perspective, can bring down the reputations of communications and PR pros overall.

Just think of the term “spin doctor.” It’s the perfect example of how some imperfect actors can give all communications professionals a tarnished reputation.

And, it’s well-known that ill-advised communications and PR actions can damage a brand. Just look at some PR fails from 2019 or brand mistakes on Twitter as some examples.

How communications pros can take action

We, as esteemed communications and PR pros, can only achieve an advanced profession if we work together. If this seems like too lofty a goal, don’t worry. We can each take action towards it right now by focusing on our own careers. In fact, elevating the profession and our own careers go hand-in-hand.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Get your dream communications job: A clear career strategy, on-point resume that demonstrates metrics, keyword-optimized LinkedIn profile, an ability to crush interviews, and a strong network are all ingredients in elevating your communications career.
  • Demonstrate results: Translate the outputs and outcomes of communications activities to others in your organization by illustrating how they drove business results.
  • Seek out awards: Crafting an award submission for an excellent communications or PR campaign can take time and effort, but it’s worth it. Awards helps translate the calibre and impact of your work to senior leadership and other professionals who aren’t savvy about the communications field.
  • Take specialized education and training: Consider an undergraduate or post-graduate degree in communications. If you’re making a career transition and aren’t able to go back to university, consider continuing education courses from a university, or a post-graduate certificate from a college.
  • Become accredited: The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) offer accreditation programs. Learn about other certifications for communications and PR pros here.
  • Collaborate with other pros: Join the Elevate Your Communications Career Community on Facebook to engage with other communications and PR pros so that we can advance our careers and the profession together.

Elevating our careers and the profession go hand-in-hand

If enough of us elevate our OWN careers in these ways, my hope is ALL professionals in the communications and PR field are rightly seen as indispensable.

Not only will this make us more confident about the impact of our every day work and the influence we have on senior leaders at our organizations, but it will also benefit our career prospects when searching for jobs, and earning higher salaries and status.

What step(s) will you take to elevate your career? Share in the comments!

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Image credit: CCRM

4 thoughts on “Why is advancing the communications profession so important?

Add yours

  1. Before moving to the field of communications, I worked in publishing (book publishing, specifically). People often made there the kind of argument you make here. I disagree with these arguments.
    It’s true that “There’s no barrier to entry in the field, meaning anyone – no matter their experience, education or training – can call themselves a communications or PR professional”: but I suggest that overall this is a good thing. It allows for flexibility, diversity, and innovation. It is true too that “The risk associated with this is that someone with no formal training or education, and little experience in creating measurable strategic objectives, executing multi-touch point campaigns, and driving business results through communications, could brand themselves as a communications or PR pro”. But, again, I fail to see the problem. People branding themselves does in itself no harm: if such people aren’t any good, the only people likely to be harmed are those who harm them. Caveat emptor. The risk associated with this is that someone with no formal training or education, and little experience in creating measurable strategic objectives, executing multi-touch point campaigns, and driving business results through communications, could brand themselves as a communications or PR pro.

    1. Thanks for reading and for sharing your views and experience. I understand your points, and am totally on board with having an opportunity for pros with different backgrounds to join the field, increasing flexibility, diversity and innovation. Then, if all comms and PR pros take steps to elevate their own careers (for example, by doing the ideas mentioned in the post), the hope is the profession will be advanced overall, and any the risk of harm to brands, orgs or clients by imperfect pros will be reduced. Thanks again for commenting.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. O agree with your response. In the post itself, I largely agree with the second half (from ‘How communications pros can take action’). But I take issue with the first half. I invite you to look at the language that you use there, which is replete with negative language. there seems to be an assumption that untrained, unqualified (in the formal sense) or inexperienced = bad, and perhaps too an implication that the opposite = good. My own experience and observation suggest that such equations are inaccurate and unreliable.
    It might be useful to compare the situation with sports players — footballers for example. Anyone is free to call themselves a football. But only a player who is good will be able to break into, and remain in, the industry. The others fall by the wayside. The mechanism is the market.
    I suggest that ultimately the proof of the pudding is in the eating (in other words the performance).

    1. That’s a good point. Everyone can call themselves communications or PR pros, and can practice to whichever level they wish or are able to. And, by elevating their skills, abilities and experience over time, the results and strategic counsel that they’re able to provide will improve too. Again, thanks for your input and feedback. I’ll keep it in mind for the future as well. 🙂

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